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Long Beach State vs. North Alabama preview: 49ers host Division II team in opener

The preseason pick to win the Big West Conference opens its season at the Walter Pyramid on Saturday afternoon against Division II North Alabama, the first ever meeting between the two schools.

Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

The Long Beach St. 49ers lost four starters to graduation last season, but the two-time defending Big West Conference regular season champions open their 2012-2013 campaign with high hopes. Long Beach State opens its basketball season on Saturday afternoon, hosting the Division II North Alabama Lions at Walter Pyramid.

Senior guard James Ennis is the lone returning starter from last year's 25-9 squad, and was named to the preseason All-Big West team by the league's media. Ennis averaged 10.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game last season. Sophomore Michael Caffey has the task of replacing two-time Big West Conference Player of the Year Casper Ware at point guard.

Even with the roster depletion, conference media picked the 49ers to win the Big West in the preseason poll, earning 13 of 21 first-place votes.

Long Beach State has won 22 consecutive games at Walter Pyramid, tied with the Syracuse Orange for the fourth longest home winning streak in the country. The 49ers trail only the Kentucky Wildcats (52 straight), LIU Brooklyn (27), and the Kansas Jayhawks (23).

This is the first meeting between Long Beach State and North Alabama. Saturday's 3:05 p.m. PT game will not be televised, but can be heard on LongBeachState.com.